Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Curmudgeon Talks About the Service Industry

I've been a waitress, and I've worked in retail sales, so I do have an insider perspective on the service industry. Even without that, I think I'd be pretty darned irritated at the kind of customer service I see far too often these days.

Here, for your reading and stewing pleasure, is my list of Service-Industry Dung Beetles (for an explanation of why I call them dung beetles, go here).

It's not a myth.
The Ostrich

You stand in front of her, a counter between you, for interminable minutes and she keeps her head down and eyes averted while you simmer. The paperwork in front of her is much more important than you are.

This irritates me to heck. I don't expect the clerk to drop everything to serve me, but I do like my presence to be acknowledged. A simple, "Hi, I'll be right with you; thank you for your patience," would be so gracious. Usually, the clerk will come up with that sentence if I say, "Hi," to her first, but it shouldn't be that way.

The Blockbuster video store we frequented in Colorado had the annoying habit of cheerily (and jarringly) shouting out, "Hello, welcome to Blockbuster!" as soon as you stepped in the door, then ignoring you when you were ready to check out. [See "The Coffee Klatch" below.]

The receptionist at our local walk-in clinic has honed this skill to a fine art. I think she hates her job.

The Coffee Klatch

There are four people behind the counter and all you want to do is order a burger and a Coke, but they're all so busy kibitzing that you can't even catch anyone's eye. Again, I typically resort to calling out, "Hello," in the hopes that they will have to cease ignoring me. On at least one occasion, I've had the whole group look at me then turn away and continue to ignore me. (I was big and pregnant in a shoe store and really hoped someone would help me on with a pair of shoes.)

The Ninja

I met this one yesterday in a busy shoe department. While I was browsing the selection, she strolled the aisles, tidying in a desultory and astoundingly random manner. When I was actually ready to try on shoes, she was nowhere to be found, rather like the Shoemaker's Elves.

Suddenly, she appeared. She grudgingly brought me my shoes, then vanished again. It was spooky.

Obviously not a commissioned salesperson.

The Cable Guy

Will he show up? Or will he stand you up? You just never know.

On Friday, I had a date with a pool guy, Derek. (What's not to love about that? Yippee!) I was excited - to open the pool, I mean. Unfortunately, on Friday morning, I realized we hadn't put enough water in the pool to get things started (you have to partially drain it for winter, then top it up in the spring). So I called the pool company and left a message for Derek. Half an hour before the meeting I still hadn't heard back so I headed home, so I would be there when he showed up.

He never showed. Never called (unless he called after I left the office). Yes, it's sort of my fault, but an acknowledgement of my message would have been courteous, so I wouldn't have left work early unnecessarily. I mean, I like working from home, but it really doesn't look good in the office when you leave at 2:30 on a Friday afternoon.

The Palace Guard

As in, Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The classic "You stay here" scene always has me in stitches. ("Seemed a bit daft, me guardin' 'im, 'im bein' a guard.") Too often it feels like we're speaking different languages but using the exact same words and syntax.

Yesterday, I took my boys out to lunch at a poorly run fast-food restaurant and had this conversation with the poor woman behind the counter.
Me: I've already got one burger, so I only need two more: a Great Canadian with cheese and bacon and a Great Canadian without cheese or bacon.

Server: But it says you ordered three burgers.

Me: Yes, we've already got the Bacon-and-Cheese Burger. We just need the two Great Canadian burgers. One with cheese & bacon, one without.

Server: So you only need one burger?

Me: We need two Great Canadian burgers.

Server: Oh. Okay, two Great Canadians.

Me: Yes. 
I figured if they both came with cheese & bacon (or without, for that matter), we could live with it.

So there you have it, my short list of traits of annoying service people. What are yours? All commenters receive 500 Internets!


  1. How about the "airhead"? Yesterday I was purchasing a 13.1 magnet for my van (yay half marathoner!). It was only $3.17. I handed the lady a $5 bill and was digging for the change. I got it out to hand to her then she said "oh, don't worry, I already have the change here". I thought "hmmm.... you're 'giving' me 17 cents?" but no, she had already put in the computer that I paid with a $5 and couldn't figure out what my change would be if I gave her the 17 cents. (Why she didn't wait for the change, I don't know, it's not like it wasn't obvious that I was digging for it). Then she proceeded to ask me if I wanted my change in the bag (who puts dollar bills and coins in a bag??). THEN she didn't put my magnet in the bag. I had to say "and the magnet...?" She was going to have me walk out with a tiny plastic filled with a receipt and $1.83! Jason and I laughed the whole way back to the car. I blame it on the fact that she was distracted by Drew's good looks.

  2. Wow, Diane, that's a winner. Worth 1,000 Internets, at least. (We'll accept the likelihood that Drew caused her temporary cerebral deficiency.)

  3. That's how long a half marathon is (13.1 miles). It's become a common symbol of having completed a half marathon. Marathoners get to put a 26.2 sticker/magnet on their car. Triathletes get to put a 70.3 and Ironman triathletes can put a 140.6

  4. That link appears to have an extra "i" even though I copy/pasted it. Strange:

  5. The first link brought me to the site, but didn't display any items. (I noticed the double "i" as well and wondered what would happen.) All's well.


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